Life’s Little Accessories
Today’s kitchen accessories and storage products are
designed to simplify and streamline kitchen functions, while making
more efficient use of space.
By Anita Shaw
In today’s busy world, it’s often the little things that provide
the greatest value to those perpetually on the go. To that end,
consumers crave products that make their lives more efficient
particularly in the kitchen, where dual-career families and
increasingly hectic lifestyles mean food preparation, cooking and
clean up are frequently done on the fly.
When designing a new kitchen, the rich wood cabinets, imported
tile floors and granite countertops may get the lion’s share of the
attention, but it’s often the items behind the scenes that really
steal the show. Kitchen accessories and storage products may not be
the glamour products of today’s designs, but they are the extras
that make the kitchen truly work.
“Time has become and continues to be a precious commodity,”
comments Rick Woods, product manager storage and convenience for
Rockford, IL-based Amerock Corp. “Dual-income households and the
normal pressures of everyday life not to mention raising a family
help to increase the desire for organization. Kitchen accessories
help simplify the lives of busy families.”
People are also re-examining their priorities and trying to find a
way to return to what is really important, adds Amy Zook, kitchen
and bath product manager for Knape & Vogt, in Grand Rapids, MI.
Still, they don’t want to give up a lot of time.
“Convenience is a huge, huge portion of this,” she comments.
“They’re saying ‘Yes! I want to be organized and have a
chaotic-free environment, but it has to be convenient for me, it
has to look good, it has to be quality built, and it really needs
to be at the right price point.’ “
Kryssia Quesada, marketing coordinator for Vance Industries, in
Des Plaines, IL, agrees that consumers are interested in products
that offer convenience in the kitchen, such as slide out
organizers, removable trays and drawer organizers that can be
customized to a drawer. “Modern lifestyles are trying to live up to
the 21st century, and that includes its accessories.”
The Glenmoore, PA-based Custom Inserts currently offers a
kitchen cutlery insert made of polished acrylic, which is designed
to address both functional and aesthetic needs. The one-piece
welded design has a floor, so it works as a removable tray.
“They’re very clean looking and scratch-resistant,” states Custom
Inserts owner John Betz, who adds, “they’re also very sanitary, as
they can be removed from the drawer and washed in the dishwasher.”
Betz states that many custom cabinet shops order the inserts
because they resemble glass, which helps to give the cabinets a
Vance Industries also manufactures drawer organizers, as well as
its Counter Trim Fit Kit, which prevents food or liquids from
falling between counter and appliance crevices, according to
Quesada. “There’s no mess, and no clean up,” she points out.
Environmental issues, too, impact the market, and Zook believes
consumers will take the time to recycle if the process is easy and
convenient. Knape & Vogt, which encompasses the Feeny Mfg.
brand as well as the Gourmet Collection, features a top mount waste
and recycling center that is designed to be much closer to the
user, thereby eliminating the fumbling when hands are dirty. “It
has full-extension slides,” she reports, “and a very nice wood
platform, which matches a lot of the upscale kitchens being
Clean-up alternatives, as well as a clean look, are also key
considerations when installing suspended seating, according to
David Wadley, v.p./sales for Orem, UT-based Seating Innovations.
“You [really] don’t have to move the seats to clean them,” he
emphasizes. “Bar stools can [tend to] be hard to slide in and out.
These chairs glide in and out, and because they’re spring loaded,
they slide back underneath automatically when a person rises. It
gives the kitchen a neat appearance all the time.”
Part of the concept of time savings and efficiency in the kitchen
is having a designated storage spot for frequently used items.
Accessibility comes into play here, as does making use of every
inch of available space in the room.
“The litmus test for coming out with an accessory product or
line is ‘does it allow for increased storage density in existing
spaces, does it improve the use of the existing space, or does it
create better access to areas that are difficult to reach?’ ” Woods
“Kitchen accessories that are truly effective allow better
access to hard-to-reach areas,” agrees David P. Noe, v.p./sales and
marketing for Rev-A-Shelf, in Jeffersontown, KY. “Using the total
cubic content of a cabinet without an accessory solution is often
the least accessible and organized [alternative]. Pull-out
shelving, with a quality sliding mechanism, is usually the most
effective combination of storage and accessibility.”
The corner cabinet is usually one of the greatest challenges
when it comes to design, due to its depth. While the standard fix
up until now has been either the Lazy Susan or a base blind corner,
Zook notes that a product from the Gourmet Collection provides a
more efficient solution. The company’s Base Blind Corner Pivot Out
Unit features a sliding mechanism that allows baskets from the rear
of a corner cabinet to slide forward when the door is opened. “It
gives you complete access to whatever it is you’re going to store
in that cabinet,” she explains.
Likewise, Space Savers, from Outwater Plastics Industries in
Wood Ridge, NJ, are designed to circumvent storage problems
throughout the kitchen. “The overall benefits to consumers through
the use of these storage aids and organizers are widespread, not
only from the aesthetic benefits they provide to a kitchen, but
also for their ability to enable consumers to recreate and utilize
the given architecture of their kitchens to their fullest
potential,” reports Outwater Plastics’ marketing director Joey
A wooden plate system that fits within a drawer is a
space-saving idea from High Point, NC-based Häfele, as is a
backsplash accessorization offering that provides additional
countertop space. “Coffee, coffee filters, cookbooks and other
kitchen items can be managed efficiently, with items being
suspended from the backsplash,” says Häfele product/ marketing
manager Kevin Aronhalt.
While the ideas behind these products aren’t really new anymore,
the execution is. “Engineers who designed the original products are
going back and refining those that have been around for a number of
years,” Shimm explains. “They’re doing today what they primarily
did a few years back they’re just a little better at doing it
FAMILY ROOM focus
Another reason efficient use of space is so important to current
kitchen designs is that today’s kitchen is more than just a room
for meal preparation. With global unrest leaving many Americans
seeking comfort in the security of the home and the kitchen widely
viewed as the heart of that home consumers want a place not just to
cook in, but a place that will also facilitate family time,
conversation, entertaining and activities that run the gamut from
planning of household activities and general computer use to
homework to watching TV.
“There has been a cross-over of the home office and the home
entertainment area into the kitchen, so there’s increased demand
for media storage products and cable management products to be used
in kitchen cabinets and kitchen planning desks,” comments Woods.
“The line is being blurred between where the home office is and
where the kitchen is, and also where your audio-visual equipment
Woods reports that Amerock has launched a line of media storage
products that not only improve specialization storage in
entertainment centers and home office furniture, but also in
kitchen cabinets. In addition, the company plans to introduce a
line of cable management products within the next few months, which
Woods believes will find applications in the kitchen.
Jessica Rommel, director of corporate communications, Nova
Solutions Inc., has also witnessed an increased interest in placing
a computer in the kitchen. “Adults want access to e-mail and the
Internet, and parents want to watch what their kids are doing on
the computer,” she says.
Effingham, IL-based Nova Solutions has tackled the problem of
where to put the kitchen computer by offering a system that works
with any standard countertop. The racking system mounts to the
underside of the cabinet below the countertop, with the front of
the monitor facing up. The surface is scratch-resistant tempered
glass, with a tint that reduces glare. “So, you’re looking down at
your computer, and you still have a usable surface,” Rommel
With so much activity taking place in the kitchen, comfort is
vitally important to its design. For customers who have chosen the
beauty of ceramic tile flooring, radiant heating in the floor may
well be part of the design.
“Since the kitchen is the room that most people tend to use to
socialize and entertain guests, they will want to make the room
more comfortable and eliminate the chill from the tile,” offers
Donald Kopis, marketing manager of New Carlisle, IN-based Easy
Heat. “It makes things more comfortable for those having breakfast,
or a midnight snack.” Easy Heat has developed an off-the-shelf
product that is installed underneath the tile, providing warmth to
small and large areas, Kopis reports.
THE LOOK Of Color
Though function and ease of use are the primary focus for kitchen
storage products and accessories, aesthetics are still a concern
for most consumers who want nothing not even function to detract
from the beauty of their high-end kitchens. To that end,
manufacturers are paying increased attention to the aesthetic value
of these products, as well as the need to create products that will
blend seamlessly with a design.
“Colors have, in the past, been driven by the cabinet
manufacturers selection, which is how we ended up with white and
almond,” Zook comments. While she believes that there will always
be a need for white, because it’s a staple, she notes that certain
segments of the industry will not give up the almond color. “To
them, almond is more homey than white,” she reports.
Zook notes that people are looking for a wide range of color
choices. “They at least want to feel that they have a selection,
and that they aren’t forced into a solution,” she says.
Materials are also an issue for accessories when planning an
upscale kitchen. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, there has been a
growing acceptance of plastic materials for storage and convenience
products in the kitchen,” comments Woods. “But,” he continues,
“with the rise of popularity of plastic materials, some consumers
are looking at alternative materials as a point of differentiation.
For instance, chrome wire basket pull-outs and pantry system
pull-outs are on the upswing. Also, storage products that combine
wood or a wood look [are gaining popularity].”
Zook believes that the growing interest in metal and other
finishes has to do with consumers reconnecting with their
environment. She adds that there’s a lot of interest in natural
stone colors, earth colors and natural metal colors, including the
resurgence of bronze and oil coppers. “We’ve also had requests for
a lot of wood and wood tones,” Zook reports.
“We feel you will see more high-end wire storage options, and
possibly the use of wood materials as components of standard
accessory products,” agrees Noe.
Aronhalt observes the continuation of stainless steel as a
popular look, with aluminum also making its move to the kitchen. “I
foresee creative, new-looking accessorization to be provided, such
as combinations of materials; for example, combinations of
stainless steel and wood for backsplashes, and chrome with
different wood/color combinations for corner and pantry pull out
systems,” he offers.
“Brushed metal is certainly a hot look,” Zook adds, “as is some
of the more softer gray powder coat, which is not quite as harsh as
the full, high-shine chrome.”
While firms want to respond to the many customer requests, Zook
emphasizes that cost can be an issue. “Consumers also want
something that is cost appropriate, so there are trade-offs,” she
Even with all of the interest in color and material choices,
Shimm notes, “kitchen accessories are purchased more for what they
do, rather than for the aesthetics of the products themselves.”
While they are available in a variety of colors and finishes,
“these take a back seat to the form and functionality of the
product,” he continues.
“Keep in mind, providing the extended function of the product
really preserves the aesthetics of the environment in which it’s
being used,” he adds. “When the product itself preserves the
intended theme or the environment, such as the kitchen, it helps
you to appreciate the aesthetics of the kitchen by keeping those
products behind the scene that really should not be brought into
the forefront. That’s when the product itself has absolutely
achieved its purpose.” KBDN